Paleo-Reconstruction Activity Results

PaleoReconstruction Plesiosaur
Plesiosaur reconstruction by Notre Dame students

Today I ran the Paleo-Reconstruction activity in my class, and I could not be happier with how it went. Students were provided with a picture of a fossil as though they were the ones to take it out of the ground. They had to analyze the anatomy and infer behavior. They were given more information as time went on such as the date of the fossil, other specimens found, and comparative specimens to refine their reconstruction.

You can find the activity, #6, here. Below is a compilation of the students’ work. Each slide has picture of the initial fossil, a professional reconstruction, and the students’ reconstruction.  I am stunned how close they got – especially with the Tully Monster!

Fossil Reconstruction Results

Powerlifting & Anthropology

Having recently changed jobs, I also recently changed gyms. I have an incredibly complicated relationship with my previous gym and a deep emotional attachment. In order to work through my experience there, I wrote a piece for Sapiens.

This was an incredibly difficult bit of writing to work through, and brought me to tears countless times. I hope this is the start of a future project looking at culture and performance among powerlifters.

I hope you enjoy, or at least get something out of it.

Primate Podcast/Video

This semester I have completely eliminated exams from my class and have focused instead on larger assignments that encourage students to engage with the material in more creative ways. One of these assignments was to create a podcast or youtube video about a primate of their choosing. They turned them in this past Thursday, and I could not be more delighted with the results. It is easy to see that the students are having more fun working like this rather than memorizing facts for an exam.

For example, one student did a podcast on howler monkeys and said the closest comparison he can come to a howler monkey sound is a death metal singer.  He then took a death metal song, removed the real vocals, replaced it with howler monkey howls, and included the result in the podcast. It was brilliant! I think the only difference I would make with this assignment (which you can find here, #3,  as well as samples of the student work) is to ask students to watch/listen to two of their classmate’s work and review it as well. That way, they are exposed to more information and ideas.

Taphonomy & Paleo-Reconstruction Class Activity

The other day I made a call on the Teaching College Anthropology Facebook page for help on in-class activities that cover basic information on fossils, taphonomy, dating techniques, and paleo-reconstructions. Sadly, the only responses I received were from other professors following the posts in hopes of hearing about any such activities.

This of course meant that I spent a day and a half thinking of and creating two activities to cover this material. Head on over to my Teaching Activities page and scroll down to activity #6 to see (and use if you like) the simple dating techniques activity, and the more complex and fun paleo-reconstruction activity.

I will be running these activities next week (10/1 & 10/3), and will post an update on how it went and student reception. I also welcome any questions, comments, or suggestions on what I put together.

Abandoning Textbooks

Whenever I prep a new course, I always prickle at choosing a textbook and teaching from a textbook. No book has ever covered what I like the way I want it to be covered. Usually, after I teach a course for a semester, I toss the book out the window, and develop my own curriculum from various online and primary sources. However, I don’t always need to re-invent the wheel.

Dr. Holly Dunsworth has always been extremely kind and generous by sharing her text-less Human Origins and Evolution Syllabus. This is a fantastic resource, and it has given me lots of inspiration for abandoning my textbook next semester.

SoS Episode 49: A Chat with Phyllis Eveleth Award Winner Jelena Jankovic

Sausage of Science LogoThis week on the Sausage of Science, Chris and Cara chat with Jelena Jankovic, this year’s recipient of the HBA Phyllis Eveleth Award for Outstanding Graduate Presentation or Poster. Jelena’s poster titled, “Forced migration and chronic stress: A study of traumatic experiences, mental health, and cortisol among refugees in Serbia” was one of over 100 posters at the 2019 Conference. As a biocultural anthropologist, Jelena’s research focuses on migrant and refugee studies as well as human biology. In this episode, she chats with Chris and Cara about her work in Serbia, the science behind fingernail clippings, and her future research goals. To contact Jelena, send her an email at or learn more about her research by visiting her Notre Dame webpage:…kovic-rankovic/.